Pride Walks For Health

Annual Fundraiser to Benefit HIV/AIDS Patients

Pacific Pride Foundation will hold its 23rd annual fundraising walk this weekend to raise money for services offered to low-income county residents living with or somehow affected by HIV/AIDS. According to a 2012 study by the county’s Public Health Department, there are 553 people living with either HIV or AIDS in Santa Barbara with 29 new cases reported last year.

Pacific Pride set a goal to raise $100,000, and Jason Patton, the foundation’s development director, said meeting it is crucial. Patton noted that budget cuts by lawmakers in recent years, starting with former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, have slashed funding throughout the state for HIV-related programs. “In 2009, we lost a $700,000 contract and laid off more than half the staff,” he said, noting that four people now juggle 50 cases each. The federal sequester has only made things worse, he went on, and the looming real-world effects of the Affordable Healthcare Act remain uncertain for many, especially those financially disadvantaged.

Patton said the HIV-related work, like free, anonymous screenings and condoms, education, and medical case management, are the organization’s “meat and potatoes,” but there’s also the needle exchange program, which provides 80,000 clean syringes each year. Pacific Pride also still sends its mobile unit out to bring free screenings and counseling to area college campuses, a demographic widely recognized as “at risk,” and farming communities, where migrant workers often lack easy access to affordable medical services. “We don’t turn anyone away,” he said.

A recent $30,000 grant has helped the organization, but as future government support is uncertain, so too is Pacific Pride’s ability to maintain free and affordable help. So far, a little more than a quarter of the $100,000 goal has made it to the coffer. But Patton explained the nonprofit often sees the amount double the day of the event. Patton also stressed that 90 percent of every dollar goes to what he calls “the necessities of life.” The 7-kilometer Heart & Sole walk begins at 10 a.m. on Sunday at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort.

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